There is a reason why Maeve Binchey is one of my go-to "comfort authors." Reading her novels is always a bit like visiting a cozy village where you are welcomed by the neighbors and invited to curl up by the fire with a cup of tea to observe and become involved in their lives.
Naturally, then, I was ever so excited to be the first person at our public library to get the newest Maeve Binchey book, Minding Frankie.
When the book opens, Noel is merely (barely) existing, trudging from one drink to the next, trying to avoid his devout parents and, indeed, interactions with anyone else at all. He is shocked out of his alcoholic complacency by the discovery that he has fathered a child with a young woman who now lies dying of cancer. Knowing that her child's birth will kill her, the mother reaches out to Noel and begs him to raise his daughter in a loving home.
Determined to do his best, Noel gives up drinking and - with the help of his no-nonsense American cousin, Emily - endeavors to build a life for his daughter, Frankie. Eventually, the entire close-knit community rallies around to help, particularly when an unforgiving social worker tries her best to find errors that will prove Noel is unfit to be a father.
Binchey reintroduces locales and characters from previous books (I was especially glad to see the twins, growing up and following their dreams of catering) alongside the introduction of new friends. Her characters are rarely perfect, but rather complex, flawed, real people.
Loved this novel and look forward to seeing Frankie grow up in future stories. If you've enjoyed any of Maeve Binchey's previous books, I recommend this. No, it isn't groundbreaking, unpredictable, highly original Literature, but it is top-notch, heartwarming storytelling.